Movie Review: Robin Hood

I enjoy the story of Robin Hood, the nobility born man who becomes a thief. The outlaw robs from the rich and gives to the poor, transforming into a hero for the common people of Nottingham.

I’ve seen many versions of this story in my lifetime. So you can bet when trailers presented a new telling of this old tale, I intended to see it. This afternoon I slipped into the movie theater…and back to Medieval England.

Movie Review Robin Hood

Robin Hood Cast

This action adventure film stars Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Ben Mendelsohn, Eve Hewson, Jamie Dornan, Tim Minchin, J. Murray Abraham and Paul Anderson. Directed by Otto Bathurst, Robin Hood carries a PG-13 rating, for adult themes and violence, and has a run time of 1 hour and 56 minutes.

Movie Review Robin Hood

Robin Hood’s Early Story

Robin of Loxley (Egerton) leaves his home in Nottingham, pressed into service to fight in the Crusades. He leaves as well Marian (Hewson) the woman he loves, promising to return. She vows to wait for him.

Four years later Robin is disillusioned with the war. His differing perspectives on how to treat captured Moors clashes with his commander, Guy of Gisborne (Anderson). The growing conflict between the two men comes to a head when Robin attempts to save the son of a Moor (Foxx), who initially tried to kill him. The youth is executed, however Robin frees the father.

Robin is shot with an arrow during the escape, and subsequently shipped back to England. There he finds his estate in ruins and Marian gone. Friar Tuck (Minchin) informs Robin that the Sheriff of Nottingham (Mendelson) seized his property two years ago, when Robin was declared dead. Marian now lives in a mining town with a man named Will (Dornan).

His old life destroyed, Robin intends to leave Nottingham. Instead he encounters the Moor he saved during the Crusade. The man stowed away on Robin’s ship bound for England. He wants to help Robin take back what’s his…his property, his title, and eventually the woman he loves. Robin of Loxley can’t pronounce his new friend’s name. The Moor tells him the English equivalent is John.

Movie Review Robin Hood

A Nobleman Becomes a Thief

John comes up with a two fold plan: Robin is to assume the role of nobleman to get close to the Sheriff of Nottingham and discover all he can about the heavy taxation that burdens the people. And in secret the young man becomes a thief, stealing from the Sheriff and giving back to the poor, which includes Marian and her man Will Scarlet.

Training begins. Robin is good with a bow, however John teaches him new techniques that enables arrows to be shot much more quickly.

John shortens Robin’s long coat, creating a jacket with a hood that covers the head. A scarf that belonged to John’s murdered son conceals Robin’s face.

As Robin of Loxley works his way into the Sheriff’s favor, he robs him in secret, setting up ambushes and pilfering coins. The people begin to call the thief The Hood, and remain unaware of his real identity. The Cardinal (Abraham) arrives, furious about the thefts and the elusiveness of The Hood.

At last Robin discovers the real intentions of the Sheriff and the purpose for the money collected by way of taxation. And the Cardinal backs the nefarious plan.

Robin must decide if he is a nobleman who has become a thief and an outlaw…or if he is stepping into the heroic role he was always intended to fulfill.

Movie Review Robin Hood

My Thoughts on Robin Hood

I enjoyed this latest adaptation of a favorite story. All the characters were present in the film, with fresh voices and slightly different relationships in a few instances. I liked the angle this story took, of Robin getting close to the Sheriff to better discover the man’s true intentions.

The cinematography was gorgeous and the action scenes well done. Visually this Robin Hood is a very appealing movie with much for the eyes to feast on and appreciate.

I’ve read criticism for the costuming, as the characters’ clothes were a unique blend of historical, contemporary and futuristic. This was intentional! The film’s set and costume designers were instructed very specifically about the desired look and they succeeded in accomplishing their directives. Rather than be critical that the clothes weren’t 100% historically accurate, I loved the overall look. The artist in me appreciated the marvelous creativity unleashed in the movie.

The use of the bows and the rapid firing of the arrows actually is an ancient technique. Lars Andersen of Denmark is an archery master. He was hired to teach the rapid fire and double arrow techniques to the cast. Take a look at one of his impressive YouTube Videos.

Movie Review Robin Hood

Fresh Robin Hood

I found a lot to like about this newest take on a familiar story. The fresh elements added to the retelling rather than detracting from it, for me. If I wanted to see Robin Hood told in the same way every time, I’d simply rewatch an older version.

But look what I would have missed! Alan Rickman’s darkly humorous Sheriff. Cary Ewles’ sarcasm. Russell Crowe’s gritty portrayal of the hero. Kevin Costner’s appearing and disappearing English accent. All the variations of the story combined create a much bigger and richer picture. I gain a nugget of truth, an aha, or words of inspiration from each one.

And that’s why I attend movies in the first place…to learn more about the way the world works and to discover in deeper ways who I am.

Movie Review Robin Hood

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Yesterday I joined my mom and sister for a movie. We selected Fantastic Beasts : The Crimes of Grindelwald. I’m an ardent Harry Potter fan. I own the books and I’m slowing reading my way through the series. I’ve seen all eight of the Harry Potter films multiple times.

Two years ago a new series of movies launched, with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This story in the wizarding world takes place in the 1920s and predates the time of Harry Potter, while building toward those events. The Crimes of Grindelwald is the second film of five in this series.

Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

The stars of this fantasy film include Eddie Redmayne, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Dan Fogler, Katherine Waterston, Zoë Kravitz, Callum Turner, Ezra Miller, Allison Sudol, and Claudia Kim . J.K. Rowling wrote the screenplay, based on characters she created in the Potter world. Directed by David Yates, the movie caries a PG-13 rating, for fantasy action sequences, and has a run time of 2 hours and 14 minutes.

Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald

Back to England

Set one year after the first film, the story opens with Gellert Grindelwald (Depp) escaping from his guards, en route to the British Ministry of Magic. Newt Scamander (Redmayne) is back in England as well, alone, caring for his growing collection of fantastic beasts.

He is approached by Albus Dumbledore (Law) with a mission: find Credence (Miller), the troubled young man thought dead in New York. Credence, who survived a vicious attack in North America, left his controlling adoptive mother. He seeks his birth family in Europe and desires to learn his story.

Credence ends up in Paris, France. He joins a traveling circus, and befriends Nagini (Kim), who has the ability to transform into a serpent. Together they abandon the circus, following a trail that might lead to Credence’s birth mother.

Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald

Converging in Paris

As Credence searches for his true family, Grindelwald takes up residence in Paris. He is looking for Credence, whom he feels is key to a future where wizards rule the world.

Also arriving in Paris is Newt, with his impossible suitcase full of beasts. He unexpectedly meets up with companions from New York (and the first film), Jacob (Fogler) and Queenie (Sudol). Newt inquires about Tina (Waterston), Queenie’s sister and the woman Newt loves. As it turns out, Tina is in Paris too, hoping to find Credence before Grindelwald does.

And finally, Newt’s brother Theseus (Turner) and future sister-in-law, Leta Lestrange (Kravitz), are in the city as well, hunting for Credence with the intention of keeping him safe.

Wizards face off against wizards, and mysteries deepen as old families find new connections and new family members even. And a darkly charismatic master woos more and more from the wizarding community to join him and create a new world order.

Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald

My Thoughts on The Crimes of Grindelwald

This film, that transitions to the middle of the story in this five part series, does exactly what it’s supposed to do. It adds depth to the tale, without resolving much of anything. In fact, it creates more questions than it answers…questions that will be answered as the story unfolds.

I enjoyed this return visit to the Potter Universe. As a fan I found much to rejoice over. Visually this is a stunning film, with fast paced action, rich backgrounds and those fantastic, magical beasts. I also appreciated all the Harry Potter references, known as Easter Eggs in movie terms. These are little nods to future events and characters that I know well.

It was wonderful to return to Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, years and years before a boy named Harry would be a student there. And how fascinating to see a young Dumbledore, who would later become Hogwart’s Headmaster and the greatest of Wizards. Jude Law marvelously captures the older wizard’s gentle spirit, familiar mannerisms and twinkling eyes, in a fresh and dapper way.

Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald

More Fantastic Beasts to Come

Jonny Depp, whom many felt was a controversial choice for Grindelwald, plays the dark wizard well. Depp excels at losing himself in a character and this is no exception. He is compelling to watch.

Being unfamiliar with this lead up to Voldemort and Harry Potter, I have no idea where the story goes from The Crimes of Grindelwald. However, I’m captivated and curious. I’m in. I look forward to seeing the next chapter, in 2020.

Until then, I’ll be rewatching the Harry Potter films and reading the books and humming that unforgettable theme song.

Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald

Movie Review: Outlaw King

The Scotsman Robert the Bruce, also known as the Outlaw King, began his reign in 1306 as a fugitive. This historical man is the subject of a new Netflix film, which released Friday on the network.

As one with Scottish ancestry, and a deep love for the country, I couldn’t wait to watch this biographical drama.

Movie Review Outlaw King

Outlaw King

Outlaw King stars Chris Pine, Stephen Dillane, Billy Howle, Tony Curran, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Florence Pugh and Josie O’Brien. David Mackenzie directed the film, which carries an R rating, for violence, language and brief nudity. Outlaw King has a run time of 2 hours and 1 minute.

Movie Review Outlaw King

Oppression and Civil Skirmishes

This story takes place immediately after William Wallace’s efforts to thwart the English by uniting the Scottish nobles against them. King Edward I (Dillane) of England seeks to control the Scots, and any desire to place a king of their own on the throne, by demanding taxation, pressing men into armed service, and creating alliances with nobility.

During this time of unrest and uncertainty, Wallace is killed by the English, inciting rage throughout Scotland.

Robert the Bruce (Pine), a descendant of Scotland’s King David, decides to challenge Edward I. First he eliminates a powerful rival for the throne, then he has himself declared king, becoming Robert I.

Robert the Bruce and his wife Elizabeth de Burgh (Pugh) are inaugurated King and Queen of Scots at Scone on March 25, 1306.

Movie Review Outlaw King

Fugitive King

The news immediately sends a ripple through Scotland and England. King Edward sends his son, Edward (Howle), Prince of Wales, to handle the upstart. Most of the Scottish nobility don’t recognize Bruce as king and fail to support him.

Robert the Bruce narrowly escapes capture when an English army attacks during the Battle of Methven. He sends his wife and daughter Marjorie (O’Brien) to safety while he becomes a fugitive. Not only is Robert trying to establish an independent Scotland, he’s also facing a civil war.

Surrounded by a small group of men led by his friend Angus Macdonald (Curran) and wild man James Douglas (Taylor-Johnson), the outlaw king strategizes. As they seek to draw more men to their side, for the battles that will come, the group seizes one castle after another. The Bruce makes the decision that every castle he takes is to be destroyed because for King Edward to win Scotland, he must garrison Scotland. And he can’t do that unless he has castles to seize.

Movie Review Outlaw King

Fight With Me

As more of Scotland’s people rally to the new king, England’s Prince of Wales closes in. King Edward I dies en route to battle the usurper. His son, whom many see as a weaker man, assumes leadership of the troops.

Robert I uses ingenious tactics to overthrow the superior military force that approaches. He arms hundreds of men with 20-foot-long spears that they hold, straight out in front of them. And he takes advantage of the boggy, marshy land that will become the battlefield. The Bruce deliberately chooses an area where the strength of the English troops can’t be brought into play. The English are knights in armor on horses, and the Scots are men on foot. They lead the unsuspecting English into the mire of the marshes where they become trapped.

Robert’s first victory as king comes in that place, on May 1307, at what is known as the Battle of Loudoun Hill.

Movie Review Outlaw King

My Thoughts on Outlaw King

I appreciate the attention to detail and the authenticity in this gritty action packed film. Fact checking is one of the things I do with historical movies and this one is extremely accurate in the telling of Bruce’s story.

I watched the unfolding of Outlaw King with teary eyes. This was a difficult time in Scotland’s history. Robert the Bruce sacrificed much to keep his country independent. The Scottish people suffered. As the English searched for the fugitive king, they ransacked and burned villages as they went, killing the men, sending the women and children to England.

Bruce’s wife and daughter were taken captive as well and sent out of the country. Fortunately they were recovered, unharmed, later. The King and Queen of Scotland raised a family together. Their descendant, James VI, later became king over both Scotland and England.

Movie Review Outlaw KingThe actor portraying James Douglas, who would become known as Black Douglas.

My Gratitudes

It’s easy to come up with five gratitudes, in connection with Outlaw King.

I’m grateful for this movie, which is in my favorite genre, historical drama. I especially appreciate its accuracy. My Scottish blood thrills to the fierceness of the people, and their desire to live in freedom. My own fierce independence is surely a result of my Scottish ancestry. And finally, seeing the mountains and rivers and lochs of Scotland pierces my heart and creates such a desire to “go home”.

Outlaw King drew from me hearty cheers for battles won, and a sigh of longing for Scotland. I’ll be there again soon. And when I next stand on Scottish soil I will pause to express gratitude for Robert the Bruce, who did so much to unite this beautiful country.

Movie Review Outlaw King

Movie Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

I’m taking a slight departure from the 5 Daily Gratitudes. Today I’m at last sharing the movie review for Bohemian Rhapsody, the musical biopic of Queen lead singer, Freddie Mercury. I’ll combine all five of today’s gratitudes with appreciation for this film.

Movie Review Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody

This film stars Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Tom Hollander and Mike Myers. Directed by Byran Singer initially and later by Dexter Fletcher, Bohemian Rhapsody carries a PG-13 rating, for adult themes and language. It has a run time of 2 hours and 14 minutes.

Movie Review Bohemian Rhapsody

From Smile to Queen

Bohemian Rhapsody is based on the true story of the rise of the legendary musical group Queen. Initially called Smile, the band has just lost its lead vocalist when a young unknown singer, with the self-given name of Freddie Mercury (Malek), boldly asks to step in as the replacement. The other band members, Brian May (Lee), Roger Taylor (Hardy) and John Deacon (Mazzello), reluctantly agree to let Freddie join the group.

It’s a good decision. Freddie’s gifted voice, high energy dance moves on stage and unwavering sense of self, launches the band onto the road of success. Freddie’s girlfriend at the time, Mary Austin (Boynton), encourages him to find his own sense of style, which he does, outlandishly.

“I love the way you move on stage. The whole room belongs to you. Don’t you see what you can be?” Mary Austin

As they rise in popularity, the band changes their name to Queen, at Freddie’s insistence. They acquire a team of managers, a label deal overseen by Ray Foster (Myers) and a legal advisor, Jim Beach (Hollander), who later assumes the role of sole manager.

Movie Review Bohemian Rhapsody

Meteoric Rise

Freddie shatters stereotypes as the band gains an extraordinary following. With his showmanship and ability to connect with audiences, and the group’s unconventional and revolutionary sound and lyrics, Queen garners recognition and incredible success. Feeling the need to continually create fresh songs and sounds, the band presents the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” to Foster, eager to release it as a single from their newest album, A Night at the Opera. The six minute long song, with its mix of hard rock, ballad and opera, is deemed too strange and too long by Foster.

The band decides to go out on their own and promote their song…and the rest, as they say, is history.

Live Aid Concert

At the height of their rise to stardom, influenced by people with darker motives,  Freddie strikes out on his own for a time. But in trying to launch a solo career, he suffers greatly.  Cut off from the band members he considers family, and from Mary, whom he declares is the love of his life, Freddie flounders. He becomes caught in a cycle of drugs, alcohol and outrageous parties that last for days. Ultimately, Freddie returns to Queen and to the friendship with Mary, who has been his anchor throughout his adult life.

The band reunites in time to perform at the Live Aid Concert in July of 1985. Even though he has just received an AIDS diagnosis, Freddie leads Queen onto the stage and through one of the greatest performances in the history of rock music.

Movie Review Bohemian RhapsodyRami Malek as Freddie on the left, and Freddie at the real Live Aid Concert, on the right.

My Thoughts on Bohemian Rhapsody

I’ve appreciated the band Queen since my late teens. I have not really understood why, other than I loved their quirky lyrics on some of their songs. They performed a wide range of music, however, from songs with operatic overtones to classic rock to ballads. I’ve turned to their songs over and over again, during my life, and thrilled to movie soundtracks that included “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions”. When I learned there would be a movie depicting Freddie Mercury and Queen, I was excited.

And I was not disappointed. It’s fun to see how the band came together and hear the beginnings of songs that later inspired the whole world. Those “behind the curtain” type of scenes made me smile.

One of the taglines of the film, however, is what drew me.

“The only thing more extraordinary then their music, is his story. The music you know, the story you don’t.”

Learning about Freddie’s story, I finally discovered why I have always been drawn to Queen.

Movie Review Bohemian Rhapsody

A Bohemian’s Story

I was inspired by Freddie’s story. Yes, there are dark bits, and sad parts, and his crazy, over the top antics….and there is brilliance, and that powerful sense of self, and his desire to make people, especially people who live on the edges, feel connected. Freddie defied labels. If he called himself anything, it was a misfit. And he wanted other misfits to feel that they belonged to him, to Queen. He had a marvelous way of bringing people together and creating a family.

Becoming Freddie

Rami Malek brings Freddie back to life in amazing ways. He wore a mouth piece, to duplicate Freddie’s endearing overbite. And his singing voice, through the power of technology, was merged with Freddie’s and Canadian singer Marc Martel, whose voice is very similar to Mercury’s. Rami had a movement coach who helped him to duplicate every nuance of Freddie’s mannerisms. All that work shows. Rami becomes Freddie.

The man who shows us who Freddie was, has a wonderful quote that sums up what inspires me about the Queen lead singer.

“Freddie was a revolutionary. He was a defiant human being who refused to be segregated and marginalized in any way. You couldn’t put a label on him and what he wanted to do is live his most authentic self. And I think that’s what he preached with his music, and his relationship with his audience…to be exactly what you want to be. I hope people can sing as loudly as Freddie did and own every truth of theirs, and not feel like they have to hide anything…and to enjoy exactly who they were meant to be.”  Rami Malek

Yes, those words, that’s it. He shone brightly, Freddie Mercury did, and for too brief of a time. I wished I’d known more about him while he lived.

And so my gratitudes today are these: I am grateful for movies like Bohemian Rhapsody that give me a deeper glimpse into an extraordinary life. My appreciation for Freddie Mercury has expanded. I’m thankful for his music, for his life and most of all, for his desire to be who he knew he was created to be. He offered himself to the world through his music. And my bohemian spirit connects with this man, this self proclaimed misfit, and joins his rhapsody, his enthusiastic, ecstatic expression of being.

Movie Review Bohemian Rhapsody




Movie Review: A Star is Born

When I heard about this remake, the 4th movie titled A Star is Born, I was intrigued. The last version, starring Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, released in 1976. I was ready for a fresh take on the musically rich film.

Daughter Elissa, who had not seen any of the previous versions, joined me for a Saturday night showing.

Movie Review A Star is Born

A Star is Born Cast

The musical drama stars Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliot and Rafi Gavron. Bradley Cooper also co-wrote the screenplay, based on the earlier versions of the film, and made his directorial debut. A Star is Born carries an R rating, for language and adult themes, and has a run time of 2 hours and 16 minutes.

Many of the songs featured in the movie were written by Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper or both, and performed by them also, wonderfully well.

The Story

Jackson Maine (Cooper) is a seasoned musician, with some hardcore vices, traveling from concert to concert. His life revolves around singing and writing music, alcohol and drugs. Late one night he walks into a bar, in search of a drink, and catches a remarkable performance that enchants him.

Ally (Lady Gaga) is an aspiring artist who writes her own songs but does not sing them. She has almost given up on a career in the music industry. Too many times she’s been told she has a beautiful voice…but not the conventional looks needed to succeed as a musician.

Movie Review A Star is Born

Jack appreciates Ally’s unconventional beauty and her musical abilities. She has a fresh perspective on life and translates what she sees into soulful lyrics.

A relationship immediately blossoms between Jack and Ally. She accompanies him as he completes his tour. And he pulls her, literally, into the spotlight, encouraging her to use her voice to tell her stories. Jack’s older half brother Bobby (Elliot), an accomplished musician himself, travels with the entourage, acting as both manager and father figure.

After she’s recruited by high level talent manager Rez (Gavron), Ally’s star rises and opportunities abound. However Jack descends. He teeters on the edge of a dark abyss where alcohol and drugs wait. Their love is real, the musical talents of both are very real. Life lived publicly is hard.

Movie Review A Star is Born

My Thoughts on A Star is Born

This is a beautiful remake. I thought I remembered the story from the 1976 film. However, apparently I have very selective memories about it. Although the names change in each version, and the different times are reflected in each film, the basic story is similar. For me though it was like watching for the first time.

Lady Gaga and Bradley Copper are amazing together. They have strong chemistry that makes their onscreen relationship all the more believable and their struggles heartbreaking.

I love the musical soundtrack accompanying the story. Lady Gaga not only unleashes her voice, she shines as an actress. And Bradley Cooper possesses a wonderful voice as well. As the man behind the camera and in front of it, he skillfully builds an emotionally packed film that had the theater audience laughing and crying, in turns.

Movie Review A Star is Born

Telling the Story

My favorite quote from this movie occurs when Bobby shares with Ally Jack’s thoughts about creating music.

“Jack talked about how music is essentially twelve notes between any octave. Twelve notes and the octave repeats. It’s the same story told over and over, forever. All any artist can offer the world is how they see those twelve notes. That’s it. He loved how you see them.”

The same is true with telling stories. We have 26 letters, in the English language, to combine into words and sentences. How we combine those letters reflects how we view the world, and ourselves. Bradley Cooper offers A Star is Born as his story to the world, and it is a worthy one to receive.

View it. I intend to watch A Star is Born again, most likely after it releases digitally so I can enjoy the film at home. In the meantime, I am listening to the soundtrack. “Shallow” is on replay, on my phone and in my head. Have a listen too.

Movie Review: Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween

What a treat this afternoon, to attend a movie after school with several of my grandchildren. When I announced we were headed to a showing of Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween, one child excitedly pulled a RL Stine book from a backpack, to show me this was an excellent choice.

Movie Review Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween

Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween Cast

Haunted Halloween stars Wendi McLendon-Covey, Madison Iseman, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Caleel Harris and Jack Black. This family adventure comedy, directed by Ari Sandel, is based upon the Scholastic Goosebumps series, written by RL Stine, who had a cameo in the film. Goosebumps 2 carries a PG rating, for suspense, and has a run time of 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween follows the adventures of siblings Sarah (Iseman) and Sonny (Taylor) and Sonny’s friend Sam (Harris), as the spooky holiday approaches. Single mom Kathy (McLendon-Covey) is busy working double shifts, leaving Sarah to keep an eye on her brother and Sam, who is spending a few days with the family.

While Sarah works on a college entrance essay, Sonny and Sam begin an entrepreneurial endeavor as the Junk Brothers. They offer their services cleaning trash out of houses, in exchange for items of value collected in the process.

Movie Review Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween

Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy

The boys’ first junkin’ job takes them to a creepy abandoned house with the name STINE lettered on it. Inside they discovered a secret room containing a chest. Within the chest is a single object…a partially written book called Haunted Halloween. After opening the book and reading an incantation inside, Sonny and Sam are startled to find a ventriloquist dummy resting in the once empty box.

They soon realize this is no ordinary dummy. It comes to life, walking and talking, and he shares his name…Slappy. At first Slappy seems innocent enough, if an inanimate object that walks and talks can be considered such. The dummy helps with chores and homework, defends the boys against bullies and protects Sarah from an inconsiderate boyfriend. It seems Slappy just wants to be part of a family.

However, things turn more sinister when Slappy’s true motives are revealed. His magical abilities animate the town’s Halloween decorations, creating havoc while Slappy gathers a very unconventional family around him. Sarah, Sonny and Sam realize the key to stopping Slappy is finishing the book that reclusive author RL Stine (Black) began 30 years ago. Will they be able to write the ending of Haunted Halloween before Slappy’s takeover is complete?

Movie Review Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween

Thoughts About Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween

This was a fun movie to watch with kids…my grandkids and the other children in the theater audience. I love how expressive children are, even when they are reacting in hushed tones.

I found the film to be more humorous than scary, although an animated ventriloquist dummy definitely adds a high level of creepiness to the story. Slappy doesn’t come across as evil as much as he does calculating and determined. He does have a wicked cackle however!

I asked my grandkids what they would add to my review. All three have seen Goosebumps 1…and I have not. Two of the three kids preferred this movie to the first one. They were not bothered by Scrappy at all even though they agreed that they would not want a ventriloquist dummy in their house.

One of their favorite scenes in the movie involved gummy bears. Who would have thought that those little fruit flavored chewy snacks could have a mean streak? The kids enjoyed a film in which children their age, and slightly older, are the heroes of the story.

My favorite scene took place in a store with a seasonal aisle. As the Halloween masks came alive, arms, legs and bodies grew from the bottom edge of the mask, until a full sized form existed. The effect was very cool!

Most of all, I enjoyed watching my grandchildren’s reactions and listening to their whispered comments and chuckles. And if they occasionally held my hand or snuggled close, laying a head on my shoulder, or flashed me a grin in the darkness, well that was worth the price of admission.

Movie Review Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween

Movie Review Juliet, Naked

My daughter Elissa and I met this afternoon at Bookhouse Cinema, Joplin’s wonderful indie theater. The newly released film, Juliet, Naked, was playing and both of us wanted to see it.

Movie Review Juliet Naked

Juliet, Naked

This romantic comedy stars Chris O’Dowd, Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke and Lily Brazier. Juliet, Naked, directed by Jesse Peretz, is based on the Nick Hornby novel by the same name. It carries an R rating, for language and adult themes, and has a run time of 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Annie (Byrne) lives a careful life in a small English sea side town. She runs the local historical museum, a job she inherited from her father, interacts with her spirited sister Ros (Brazier), and feels more and more confined in her relationship with her boyfriend.

Annie and Duncan (O’Dowd) have lived together for 15 years. He teaches classic literature and American films at a nearby college. However his passion, which borders on obsession, is with an obscure US singer and song writer, Tucker Crowe (Hawke). It matters not that Crowe hasn’t performed in years or released new albums. Duncan collects facts, posters and demos and hosts an online site devoted to the elusive singer and his die hard fans.

Movie Review Juliet Naked

Movie Review Juliet Naked

Too Small a Story

Duncan’s obsession over the rocker is too small a story for Annie to live and thrive in. Chafing within the confinement she’s helped to create, Annie considers having children as a way to expand her life. And then life itself intervenes. An acoustical demo arrives, of Crowe’s early hit Juliet, Naked. Annie attempts to dampen Duncan’s over-the-top enthusiasm for the demo by writing a less than complimentary review of the song, which she posts to his website.

To her surprise, her comments draw a response from the artist himself, who agrees with her statements. Annie and Tucker begin a transatlantic correspondence that deepens day by day. They share openly and honestly about the disappointments and challenges each has experienced the past twenty years.

When Tucker seizes an opportunity to fly to London, he and Annie arrange to meet. Communicating via email and text was easy. In person, life is messier and people and relationships are more complicated. There is much to discover and sort out as new connections are created.

Movie Review Juliet Naked

Movie Review Juliet Naked

Familiar Story with a Fresh Feel

Juliet, Naked is most definitely a romantic comedy, with an emphasis on the comedic element. Chris O’Dowd, with his strange and singular focus on another man’s life, caused me to laugh out loud numerous times.

This film manages to go beyond the rom com label however. It offers a sincere glimpse at what a stuck life can look like and feel like. All of the characters are caught in small stories of their own making, and challenged to free themselves.

As the film’s storyline unfolds, with strong performances by Byrne and Hawke that balance O’Dowd’s humor, the characters grow in awareness and depth. They figure their crap out…or at least, they begin to. And they realize that past decisions shaped their lives, but new choices shift the future. Bigger stories to live in are possible. It’s up to each person to create them.

This movie can be summed up well by a quote from an older character in the film, Edna. During a museum exhibition, she looks at an old photo of herself with friends and shares, “[This] was George. He was a fast worker. He wanted a bit of fun. I wish I did too, but I fought him off. I thought, ‘Edna, you can never go wrong not doing something. It’s the things that you do that get you into trouble.’ Here I am 84 years old and I’ve never been in trouble in my whole bloody life. Goddammit!”

It’s the things you do that you remember and the things you don’t do that you regret.

Juliet, Naked is the kind of movie that I deeply enjoy…funny, sweet, and insightful with characters that open up, explore who they are, and grow as they learn. I left the theater appreciating this indie film and it’s message of creating a bigger life.

Movie Review Juliet Naked

Queen of Katwe

Although I watched Queen of Katwe last week, I saved the review until after the Hygge Challenge, for a reason. I needed time to unpack the truths. This film, based on a true story, found its way to me in an unusual fashion. Not only did the story inspire me, it underscored that something magical is occurring in my life.

This trek down the rabbit hole began when my daughter Elissa sent me a quote:

“Sometimes the place you are used to is not the place where you belong.” From the film Queen of Katwe

She had not heard of the movie, nor did she look it up. Elissa loved the quote and thought I would appreciate it. Plus, there was the intriguing word queen listed in the source of the quote. The queen chess piece is my symbol for 2019 and the word and image continue to show up daily in my life.

I loved the quote too. And being unfamiliar with the film, I looked it up. This is what I read, as a summary of the storyline:

A Ugandan girl sees her world rapidly change after being introduced to the game of chess.

Amazed, once again, I had to watch the movie.

Move Review Queen of Katwe

Queen of a Film

Queen of Katwe stars Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, Martin Kabanza and Hope Katende. This biographical drama, directed by Mira Nair, is based on the book by the same title written by Tim Crothers. The movie carries a PG rating, for adult themes, and has a run time of 2 hours and 4 minutes.

A young Ugandan girl, Phiona Mutesi (Nalwanga), lives in the slum town of Katwe with her mother and siblings. After the death of her husband, Phiona’s mother Harriet (Nyong’o) struggles to feed and provide for her four children. She moves them from house to dilapidated house, barely able to survive.

The children are removed from school and help their mother by selling maize on the litter strewn streets.

Movie Review Queen of Katwe

Changing Her Life

Life is difficult and the future bleak, until Phiona follows her younger brother Brian (Kabanza) one day to a neighborhood mission. There she meets Coach Robert Katende (Oyelowo) and watches as children from Katwe play chess. The boards are hand painted and the chess pieces rough, however Phiona and several of the other children discover that they have a knack for the game of strategy.

In fact, Coach Katende quickly realizes that Phiona is a chess prodigy, able to visualize eight moves ahead. He and his wife Hope (played in the film by the real life Hope Katende) alter their plans and make choices that allow them to help Phiona and the children of Katwe have a chance at a better life.

From the poorest of the poor families struggling in the slums, Phiona learns to read, studies books about chess and yearns to become a master of the game. This brilliant and amazing girl moves step by step, from a mission house to competitions to international tournaments, her life shifting to parallel the game she is mastering.

Movie Review Queen of Katwe

Movie Review Queen of Katwe

From Pawn to Queen

I was so deeply moved by this film, which is available on DVD and Netflix. What an incredible impact chess had on Phiona and the other children of Katwe. And how life changing was the love of Coach Katende and his wife Hope, for families whose lives appeared hopeless. Coach showed great respect for Phiona’s mother, honoring her as he recognized the difficult sacrifices she made for her children.

This feel good movie is cheer worthy. I was in tears by the end and literally applauding. As I usually do after watching a film based on a true story, I fact checked and found the events and portrayals in Queen of Katwe to be accurate. To my delight, an added bonus during the end credits brings together the actors and the people that they played.

Movie Review Queen of Katwe

I don’t yet fully understand what is going on in my own life, however it revolves around this idea of moving, step by step, from being a pawn to becoming a queen. It’s more than an idea. It’s a Divine invitation to learn, to grow, to leave some things behind and enter into new territory. Queen of Katwe inspired me and challenged me to step up my game, so to speak.

The rest of the quote that Elissa sent me is this:

“Sometimes the place you are used to is not the place where you belong. You belong where you believe you belong.” Queen of Katwe


Movie Review Queen of Katwe

Movie Review Crazy Rich Asians

In between appointments today, I slipped away to catch an early showing of a film I’ve been wanting to see. Perhaps because the matinee was just after lunch, or maybe because the movie has been out for a couple of weeks, I had the large theater auditorium to myself. As the lights dimmed the experience felt like a private showing. This is a movie review of Crazy Rich Asians.

Movie Cast

Crazy Rich Asians stars Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Jemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina, Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang and Pierre Png. This romantic comedy, directed by Jon M. Chu, is based upon the novel by the same name, written by Kevin Kwan. The film carries a PG-13 rating, for adult themes and mild language, and has a run time of 2 hours.

Movie Summary

Rachel Chu (Wu), an economics professor in NYC, travels east with her boyfriend of one year, Nick Young (Golding). Nick’s best friend Colin (Pang) is marrying his sweetheart, Araminta (Mizuno) and Nick is the best man. When Rachel hears “out east” she pictures Queens. In reality, east is Singapore.

Rachel’s first clue that there are things she does not know about her boyfriend comes when the pair is seated in a luxurious first class suite aboard the airplane. During the flight she discovers that Nick’s family is wealthier than she imagined.

Movie Review Crazy Rich Asians

After arriving in Singapore, Nick and Rachel are met by the soon to be married couple. They enjoy an evening together exploring the city, dining on exquisite street vendor food, and chatting.

The next day Rachel plans to meet Nick at his grandmother’s house for a family dinner. She spends the day visiting with a former college roommate, Peik Lin Goh (Awkwafina), and her eccentric family. During lunch she mentions her boyfriend’s name, shocking her friend. Thereafter, Rachel finds out that Nick’s family is one of the wealthiest in Singapore with vast business and real estate holdings.

Nervous about meeting the Young family, Rachel allows Peik Lin to loan her a formal gown to wear to the dinner and to chauffeur her to the grand estate. There she meets Nick’s sad but beautiful cousin Astrid (Chan) and her husband Michael (Png), his disapproving mother Eleanor (Yeoh) and the matriarch of the family, Nick’s grandmother Ah Ma (Lu).

Movie Review Crazy Rich Asians

Eleanor immediately dislikes Rachel and makes her feelings known. She frowns upon Rachel’s American birth and the single mom who raised her. Eleanor intends for her son to take over the family businesses and to marry a woman more suited to the traditional Chinese way of life. Consequently, she views Rachel as being too ambitious and ridicules her for chasing after her passion, which is to teach economics to college students.

Far from home and a familiar life, Rachel is surrounded by jealous young women who had hoped to catch Singapore’s most eligible bachelor, suspicious members of the Young family, and a culture that differs greatly from her own. Is her love for Nick, and his for her, strong enough to survive such overwhelming challenges?

Movie Review Crazy Rich Asians

My Thoughts About the Movie

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. The story is very much a Cinderella one, with such a reference made during an extravagant ball-like party. The “evil” family members, however, are all on the boyfriend’s side. The characters are more complex than just being good or evil. Eleanor’s backstory reveals why she reacts so strongly to her son’s girlfriend.

The visual impact of the movie is one of opulence, with brilliant cinematography accompanied by a lively musical score. There is a classical feel to the film, reminiscent of the movies I grew up watching as a child.

And while the story of poor girl meets rich boy is familiar, there is freshness throughout the film with beautiful Singapore providing a textured backdrop and cultural interest. Chinese Americans differ from those in Singapore, giving me the impression that the former don’t quite fit in anywhere.

Movie Review Crazy Rich Asians

Awkwafina was a joy to watch as Rachel’s friend. She provides a great deal of the humor in the film. Constance carries the role of Rachel well, in a deliberately understated way. And Michelle Yeoh, who plays Eleanor, is why I wanted to see this movie. I am familiar with her as a regular on Star Trek Discovery. She offers a powerful performance as a woman who honors tradition and wants the best for her son, and also fears losing him.

At its heart, this charming film is about relationships of all kinds…friendship, romance and family connections. As is true for most of us, it is the family relationships that most define us and challenge us. There is love amongst family, and heartbreak as well, and often sacrifice. Crazy Rich Asians offers thoughtful insights into all three.

Movie Review Crazy Rich Asians

The Disaster Artist

This film, The Disaster Artist, came into my awareness earlier in the year, during the Golden Globes. I had not heard of Tommy Wiseau, who wrote, starred in, directed and produced The Room, a flick called “the best worst movie ever made”.

However, James Franco won the Globe for best actor in a leading role in The Disaster Artist, which is a movie about Tommy creating the terrible film that has gone on to amass a huge cult following. James called Tommy up onto the stage to stand with him as he accepted the award. In those few minutes in the spotlight, I could tell that Tommy was an unusual man. I was intrigued.

I still haven’t seen The Room. However I watched James Franco’s movie by way of Amazon Prime this afternoon.

Movie Review The Disaster Artist

The Disaster Artist stars James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, and Ari Graynor. This comedy drama, directed by James Franco, carries an R rating for language, sexuality and nudity, and has a run time of 1 hour and 43 minutes. The film is based on the book, The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero, the actor who helped Tommy create his disasterpiece.

Greg (Dave Franco) meets Tommy (James Franco) in an acting class in San Francisco, in 1998. Greg lacks confidence before an audience, causing him to greatly admire Tommy, who is not only fearless but way, way outside the box in terms of technique.

The two men agree to do scenes together in class, and in the process of practicing lines, they become good friends. Like Greg, Tommy aspires to be an actor and a filmmaker. However, people in the industry don’t “get” Tommy or appreciate his unique acting style.

Movie Review The Disaster Artist

Although he claims to be from New Orleans, Tommy has a heavy Eastern Europe accent, owns property in San Francisco and Los Angeles but won’t divulge how he acquired his wealth, and remains vague about his age. None of that matters to Greg. He appreciates the passion with which Tommy pursues his dreams against overwhelming odds.

Greg and Tommy make a pact to move to Los Angeles and break into the acting industry. Greg begins to date Amber (Graynor), after the two hit it off at a bar, and signs on with a talent agency, but the hoped for roles are scarce. No one will give Tommy a chance. A well known producer tells him, “Just because you want it doesn’t mean it can happen. In a million years it will never happen.”

Movie Review The Disaster Artist

Because they made a pact to help each other succeed, Tommy and Greg decide that if no one will hire them, they will create their own movie. Tommy writes the screenplay for a film he calls The Room. Greg agrees to star in it. It’s obvious the two don’t have a clue what they are doing, however they proceed with enthusiasm as they assemble a production team led by script supervisor Sandy Schklair (Rogen).

A casting call goes out for an actress to play the female lead. The auditions alternate between hilarious and painful to watch, until Tommy at last finds his leading lady, beginning actress Juliette Danielle (Graynor). A 40 day shooting schedule is arranged at a studio that provides all the equipment needed, and filming of The Room begins.

It’s a shared adventure between Greg and Tommy that leaves the other actors and the film crew confused and perplexed. Everyone sees the alarming project through to the end, resulting in an unforgettable premiere.

Movie Review The Disaster Artist Tommy Wiseau with the actual poster he created for his film, which premiered in 2003.

I had no idea what to expect with The Disaster Artist, and no prior knowledge of Tommy and his movie apart from his five minutes on the Golden Globe stage. Remaining open and curious as the story unfolded, I fell in love with this film.

James Franco marvelously captures Tommy’s eccentricities, from his speech patterns and mannerisms to his unabashed excitement over creating a film. And Dave, James’ real-life brother, steps into the role of Greg equally well. The friendship that Greg and Tommy cultivated endured the stresses and rigors of a creative project that no one else believed in, and continues today.

Movie Review The Disaster Artist James Franco on the left, Tommy Wiseau on the right.

Movie Review The Disaster ArtistDave Franco on the left and Greg Sestero on the right.

The Disaster Artist is a brilliant movie about a movie. I laughed, often, at the outrageous boldness of Tommy Wiseau, and just as often I teared up because he so believed in his dream. He didn’t care what anyone else thought or said about him or his film. Instead he moved unwaveringly toward its completion.

Although the movie does not shy away from any aspects of Tommy’s story, it does not ridicule or belittle the man or his beliefs. And I deeply appreciated that. I could not help but cheer Tommy and Greg on. They beat the odds and brought their dreams into reality.

Although The Room, which cost Tommy 6 million dollars to create, only made $1800 its opening weekend, the movie has become a cult classic. It still plays in major cities around the US each year, generating between half a million and a million in revenue for its creator.

After watching The Disaster Artist, I’m glad to know that Tommy’s dream is alive and well and continuing to bring him fame and fortune. I’m inspired by his persistence and his faith in his own abilities. Now if I can just find a way to view his masterpiece, The Room.

Movie Review The Disaster Artist